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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Other Half

I think it was Greg Mankiw who wrote about lesser known co-authors getting the short end of the stick when it comes to recognition for their work even when they are the driving force behind the research. The IPCC is suffering a similar fate with Al Gore seeming to have won the Nobel Prize all by himself from the press and pundit coverage, so I'm glad to see Jeff Sachs shine a light on scientists at the IPCC who played a key role in establishing the scientific basis for the climate change problem:

The appliance of science, by Jeffrey Sachs, Project Syndicate: Al Gore's Nobel peace prize is a fitting tribute to a world leader who has been prescient, bold, and skillful in alerting the world to the dangers of man-made climate change. Gore's co-recipient of the Nobel peace prize is less known, but no less deserving. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN's global body for assessing the scientific knowledge on climate change and bringing that knowledge to the attention of the public and the world's policy makers. Its receipt of the Nobel peace prize sends three powerful messages.

First, the world's leading climate scientists and most of the world's governments have brought climate science to the forefront of global policy debates. Climate change is complicated. ... A worldwide effort is needed to understand changes in all parts of the world.

Since its inception in 1988, the IPCC has harnessed the best scientific minds from around the world to document and explain what is known and not known about human-induced climate change. ... The review process is transparent and governments are invited to participate by nominating experts to various working groups, reviewing and commenting on IPCC draft documents, and approving final IPCC reports. This process builds accuracy and confidence. ...

The second message is that such a global process linking scientists and governments in a common effort is vital, because without it the airwaves can get clogged with the ignorance and misinformation peddled by special interest groups. For years, oil companies such as Exxon ... sponsored misleading journalism and groups that masqueraded as "thinktanks." The IPCC faced down these vested interests. Today, ExxonMobil and other major oil companies are much more honest and constructive in their discussions... They could not, in the long-term, beat the science without gravely damaging their reputations.

Finally, this year's Nobel peace prize is a wake-up call to governments, starting with the United States, to get more serious about science and sustainable development. The Bush administration has been disastrously anti-scientific. It has been staffed with ideologues who reject or neglect climate science... Most governments are in fact ill-equipped to understand the scientific issues, even when they are much less ideological and dogmatic than Bush. ...

The world should respond in three ways. First, we should take seriously the need for a new climate-change accord when global negotiations begin in Bali, Indonesia this December. ...

Second, we should initiate IPCC-like scientific processes for other global challenges, including the global loss of biodiversity, desertification, and over-fishing of the oceans. In each area, the general public and the world's governments only dimly perceive a global crisis. Governments have signed treaties to limit the damage, but they are not acting on those promises with the urgency required, in part because they do not understand the underlying scientific challenges.

Finally, we must revamp national governments so that they have processes and capabilities similar to the IPCC. Global processes like the IPCC are crucial, but the issues must also be "brought home" to the conditions and challenges facing each country. ... The IPCC proved that science can contribute powerfully to meeting these challenges, and that scientists and policymakers can work together to help solve problems of critical importance for humanity.

    Posted by on Wednesday, October 17, 2007 at 05:58 PM in Economics, Environment, Politics, Science | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (3)


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